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The Wine Pull

I don’t often play favorites in event planning. What works for one organization or audience doesn’t always work for another. But I admit that I currently have a favorite revenue enhancer – the Wine Pull. It’s fun, relatively simple, and makes a big impact. I’ve seen several organizations develop it into a fan favorite every year.

Here’s how it works:

The organization requests supporters, board members, and friends donate bottles of wine with a minimum value (often $25). At the event, bottles are set out for display with numbered tags on them. Guests draw from a bowl of numbered corks (corresponding to the numbers on the bottles) to find out which bottle they win. Each draw costs $25 or $30, with an option to set up a discount for buying multiple (1 for $30, 4 for $100) and everyone is a winner!

Why it works:

  • Wine is easy to procure. Ask board members to bring a silent auction donation to the next meeting and you’ll get a wide range of donations, some possibly unusable. But make a specific ask and you’re more likely to be successful. Encourage board or committee members to ask their friends to bring a bottle for donation to dinner parties, birthday events, etc. And it’s perfectly fine if most of your bottles are near the minimum value, as long as there are a few significant bottles that will be particularly enticing/exciting to your crowd.

  • It’s a game! Attendees will compare what they won with their friends and keep coming back if there is a certain special bottle they’re trying to win.

  • Lower cost to participate. Many revenue enhancers (live and silent auction, special appeal) include your high dollar donors, but don’t allow everyone to participate. At my last client event with a Wine Pull, a member of the venue staff asked to participate in the wine pull to support the organization! Yes, your primary focus at a major fundraiser is relationship building with major donors. But you should still have opportunities to feed your ‘participation pipeline’ of smaller donors who want to be involved.

  • Wine has a broad appeal. This is pretty self-explanatory – many individuals buy wine regularly for themselves, to gift, or to serve at parties. You don’t have to convince them they need or want something, only that they should buy it from you!

Tips for success:

  • If you are asking a committee to plan this, make space for them to do so. Decrease the number of silent auction items you’re reaching for or skip a raffle this year. Don’t just add work for busy volunteers.

  • Make sure at least 10% are “special” bottles that will increase attention and sales. Display them prominently! Ideas: large format bottles, bottle signed by a winemaker or someone special to your organization, well-known bottle of champagne. You can also ask companies or individuals to underwrite these bottles – their donation will be multiplied as it’s leveraged to increase all Wine Pull sales!

  • Talk it up beforehand so attendees show up ready to participate. Board meetings, emails to attendees, social media photos, etc.

  • Have a system in place to bag the wine during dinner (I bet you’ll sell most bottles during cocktail hour!) so it’s easy for donors to pick up during check out or on their way out. Bonus tip: invite a local spirits store or grocery store to sponsor the Wine Pull and provide branded boxes or bags to carry the wine home in.

  • Check liquor licensing at your venue and in your state to make sure you’re within regulations.

  • Consider your mission and your audience. Alcohol sales are not a good fit for everyone.

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